The Culture Wiki

This is a list of spacecraft found in the Culture novels and short stories by Iain M. Banks. Most ships in this list are members of The Culture, the hybrid society featured in many of these novels. In this setting, each Culture ship, and some others, is also an artificial intelligence with a distinctive personality. Many of these ships are significant characters in the novels.[1]


The machine intelligences called Minds (and, as a consequence, the Culture starships that they inhabit) usually bear names that do a little more than just identify them. The Minds choose their own names, and thus they usually express something about a particular Mind's attitude, character or aims in their personal life. Warship names are similar in retaining the whimsical nature, though the humour tends to be more cynical and threatening.

The classification of the ship types sometimes implies a degree of cultural embarrassment of the power they can potentially wield, for example their renaming of Demilitarised Rapid Offensive Units ((D)ROUs) as "Very Fast Pickets", whether or not they are actually "Demilitarised", while later the term "picket ship" is used to describe an Abominator-class General Offensive Unit, one of the most powerful front-line warship classes ever built by the Culture. "General Systems Vehicles" as a designation does not highlight the true potency of these craft, which could be hundreds of kilometres long.

Banks composed many of the Culture ships' names very carefully to express the attitude of the ship's Mind, and a few names contain puns where both meanings are appropriate to the ship's attitude. A few of the ship names, like variations on "gravitas", are also installments in running gags.

Some ships' names hint at their purpose, but in a way that is not clear until near the end of the book. For example, the Sleeper Service is a sleeper agent whose cover is storing people in suspended animation "sleeper service", and the Grey Area indulges in the (from the Culture's perspective) moral grey-area of reading the brains ("grey matter") of organic entities to root out historical genocidal acts.

Common ship types[]

Common ship types in the Culture series include:

Class Acronym Description
General Systems Vehicle GSV Mobile habitats and factory ships, largest and most capable Culture ship type. Build and host other ships, including smaller Systems Vehicles. May be home to billions of people. Some militarised and used as giant warships during the Idiran–Culture War. They are described in the books as holograms of the whole Culture, each one containing all the knowledge and productive capacity needed to reconstruct the civilization in case of catastrophe.
Medium Systems Vehicle MSV Smaller versions of the above. Sometimes former GSVs downgraded as larger GSV classes were developed.
Limited Systems Vehicle LSV Smaller versions of the above. Sometimes former GSVs or MSVs downgraded as larger GSV classes were developed.
General Contact Vehicle GCV Contact craft intermediate in size and function between Systems Vehicles and Contact Units. Capabilities include building other ships.
General Contact Unit GCU Standard Contact craft, used for exploration and for studying and interacting with other societies. Considerable combat capability, but less than dedicated warships. At the beginning of the Idiran–Culture War GCU craft were the primary offensive unit until Culture ship building moved to a war footing.
Limited Contact Unit LCU Smaller, less capable versions of the above.
Rapid Offensive Unit ROU Dedicated fast warships.
General Offensive Unit GOU Dedicated warships.
Limited Offensive Unit LOU Dedicated warships, smaller and less capable than GOUs and ROUs
Demilitarised ROU (D)ROU ROUs with main armament removed, used as courier ships.
Demilitarised GOU (D)GOU GOUs with main armament removed, used as courier ships.
Demilitarised LOU (D)LOU LOUs with main armament removed, used as courier ships.
Very Fast Picket VFP Synonym for (D)ROU.
Fast Picket FP Synonym for (D)GOU or (D)LOU.
Superlifter High-speed tugs, consisting largely of engine and used to accelerate or decelerate other ships. Some temporarily militarised as a stop-gap in the early stages of the Idiran–Culture War.


Consider Phlebas[]

Ships mentioned in Consider Phlebas include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Bora Horza Gobuchul Ocean, later Range The name chosen by the Mind at the centre of the events of the book, after its rescue and emplacement in a GSV.
Culture GSV Determinist System The largest GSV class built by the Culture, composed of multiple separate hulls. Population 6 billion.
Culture GSV Eschatologist (temporary name) Ocean A comparatively small GSV class, designed for combat and military manufacturing.
Culture GSV Irregular Apocalypse
Culture GSV No More Mr Nice Guy
Culture LSV Profit Margin
Culture GCU Nervous Energy Mountain
Culture GCU Prosthetic Conscience
Culture ROU Revisionist Killer
Culture ROU Trade Surplus Killer
Culture Ulterior GSV The Ends Of Invention Officially discharged from Culture service, with its Mind/s removed, and employed as a neutral vessel to evacuate Vavatch Orbital.
Idiran Light Cruiser The Hand of God 137
Non-aligned (Ex-Hronish) Armoured assault Clear Air Turbulence or "CAT" for short A pirate ship, and one of the main settings of the book.

Named by the author after the rock album Clear Air Turbulence by the Ian Gillan Band, the cover of which shows a yellow-striped spacecraft painted by the sci-fi artist Chris Foss.[2] The Clear Air Turbulence in the book is also described as having yellow stripes on its hull.

Non-aligned Control Surface Third ship of Ghalssel's Raiders, commanded by Jandraligeli, a former member of Kraiklyn's Free Company. This ship is mentioned only in the book's appendices.

The Player of Games[]

Ships mentioned in The Player of Games include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Cargo Cult
Culture GSV Little Rascal Plate Focused on 'throughput' (ship construction and crewing), rather than accommodation. Population 250 million. Plate class hull dimensions 53 km × 22 km × 4 km (32.9 mi × 13.7 mi × 2.5 mi).

The Deep Submersible Support Vessel (DSSV) Pressure Drop, the expedition support ship of the Five Deeps Expedition led by Victor Vescovo, has a utility boat on it called the Little Rascal. Similar to its namesake, the small vessel is designed to provide frequent crew-support missions and provisioning runs for the main ship.

Culture GSV So Much For Subtlety Range
Culture GSV Unfortunate Conflict Of Evidence
Culture GSV Youthful Indiscretion
Culture GCU Flexible Demeanour
Culture GCU Just Read The Instructions Friends of Chamlis Amalk-ney, with ties to Contact.

Elon Musk named three SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ships after these ships.

Culture GCU Of Course I Still Love You
Culture (D)ROU Zealot
Culture (D)GOU Limiting Factor Murderer Jernau Morat Gurgeh's ship to Empire of Azad. Nominally demilitarised, but actually retains part of its main armament.

Victor Vescovo, an American deep-sea explorer, named the deep diving submersible DSV Limiting Factor after this ship.[3]

Culture LOU Gunboat Diplomat An allusion to the concept of gunboat diplomacy.
Culture Superlifter Kiss My Ass River Helps accelerate the Limiting Factor so it can rendezvous with the Little Rascal.
Culture Superlifter Prime Mover Helps decelerate the Limiting Factor to speeds its engines can handle when it leaves the Little Rascal. An allusion to the Aristotelian philosophical concept of the prime mover, in humorous reference to the function of a Superlifter.
Culture Clipper Screw Loose
Azadian Battlecruiser Invincible Flagship of the Empire of Azad.

The State of the Art[]

Most of the Culture ship names in this collection come from the titles of the chapters in the titular novella. The narrator explains that it has used the names of ships produced by a manufactory of the Yinang Orbitals of the Dahass-Khree, birthplace of the Arbitrary and known for ships that are "a bit crazy."

Ships mentioned in The State of the Art include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Bad For Business
Culture GCU Ablation*
Culture GCU Arbitrary Escarpment (middle series) The only ship actually appearing in the book, and one of its main settings.
Culture GCU Arrested Development*
Culture GCU A Series Of Unlikely Explanations
Culture GCU A Ship With A View*
Culture GCU Big Sexy Beast
Culture GCU Boo!
Culture GCU Cantankerous
Culture GCU Credibility Problem*
Culture GCU Dramatic Exit*
Culture GCU Excuses And Accusations*
Culture GCU Funny, It Worked Last Time...
Culture GCU God Told Me To Do It*
Culture GCU Halation Effect*
Culture GCU Happy Idiot Talk*
Culture GCU Helpless In The Face Of Your Beauty*
Culture GCU Heresiarch*
Culture GCU I Thought He Was With You
Culture GCU It'll Be Over By Christmas
Culture GCU Just Another Victim Of The Ambient Morality*
Culture GCU Minority Report*
Culture GCU Never Talk To Strangers
Culture GCU Not Wanted On Voyage*
Culture GCU Only Slightly Bent
Culture GCU Perfidy*
Culture GCU Sacrificial Victim*
Culture GCU Space Monster
Culture GCU Stranger Here Myself*
Culture GCU Synchronize Your Dogmas*
Culture GCU Thank You And Goodnight*
Culture GCU The Precise Nature Of The Catastrophe*
Culture GCU Ultimate Ship The Second
Culture GCU Undesirable Alien*
Culture GCU Unwitting Accomplice*
Culture GCU Well I Was In The Neighbourhood*
Culture GCU You'll Thank Me Later*
Culture GCU You Would If You Really Loved Me*

*Names mentioned in the chapter names of the title novella only. All of them belong to ships produced by the Infracaninophile manufactury in Yinang Orbital.

Use of Weapons[]

Ships mentioned in Use of Weapons include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Congenital Optimist
Culture GSV Size Isn't Everything Length of over 80 kilometers. Parent ship of the Sweet and Full of Grace.
Culture GSV What Are the Civilian Applications? Continent Limited edition Prompt subclass. Can outrun a Very Fast Picket.
Culture GCU Just Testing
Culture GCU Sweet and Full of Grace Child ship of the Size Isn't Everything.
Culture GCU Very Little Gravitas Indeed Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[4]
Culture VFP/(D)ROU Xenophobe Torturer


Ships mentioned in Excession include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The Plate
Culture GSV Death And Gravity Its name is a play on the adage that only death and taxes are inevitable; "taxes" are replaced with gravity, since the Culture doesn't have taxes (or money).
Culture GSV Ethics Gradient Range Parent ship of the Fate Amenable To Change. References ethical relativism, where no moral position is absolute.
Culture GSV Honest Mistake Parent ship of the Grey Area.
Culture GSV Limivorous Ocean "of or relating to animals, usually worms or bivalves, that ingest earth or mud to extract the organic matter from it." Unflattering view of non-Mind entities if this is how it sees its relationship with the ship's organic complement.
Culture GSV Uninvited Guest
Culture GSV Use Psychology
Culture GSV What Is The Answer And Why?
Culture GSV Wisdom Like Silence Continent Controlled by three Minds.
Culture GSV Yawning Angel Range Top speed, 146,000 × light-speed.
Culture GSV Zero Gravitas Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[4]
Culture MSV Not Invented Here Desert The Desert class was originally a GSV class that was demoted to MSV as Culture ship sizes grew. The Not Invented Here is usually termed an MSV, but is also referred to as an actual GSV twice (Genar-Hofoen is told that the NIH was a GSV by Tishlin, and he subsequently refers to it as a GSV even after knowing that it is now an MSV), while towards the end of the book it is referred to as an LSV by the Sleeper Service and in authorial narration. Accounts of its history are also contradictory: at one point, characters indicate that the NIH is generally believed (even within Special Circumstances) to have been destroyed five centuries earlier; at another, the narration states that it has always remained an apparently normal part of the Culture, with a very well-documented past.
Culture LSV Misophist A Sophist is "a person who reasons with clever but false arguments." A Misophist is presumably someone who dislikes sophists.
Culture LSV Serious Callers Only Tundra
Culture GCV Steely Glint Plains Parent ship of the Attitude Adjuster.
Culture GCU Different Tan Mountain
Culture GCU Fate Amenable To Change Escarpment Child ship of the Ethics Gradient.
Culture GCU Grey Area (aka Meatfucker) Ostracised for non-consensual mindreading of biological individuals, earning it the condemnation of other ships, who then ignored its chosen name in favor of Meatfucker. Child ship of the Honest Mistake. Also mentioned in Look to Windward.
Culture GCU It's Character Forming
Culture GCU Jaundiced Outlook Ridge Child ship of the Sleeper Service.
Culture GCU Problem Child Troubadour Early (vs Excession-contemporary) GCU, historical mention. Nominally captained by Zreyn Tramow.
Culture GCU Reasonable Excuse
Culture GCU Recent Convert
Culture GCU Tactical Grace Escarpment
Culture GCU Unacceptable Behaviour Child ship of the Quietly Confident (Sleeper Service).
Culture LOU Attitude Adjuster Killer Nominally demilitarised, but in fact a fully armed warship. Child ship of the Steely Glint. Class possibly downgraded from ROU (designated as such in Consider Phlebas, set five centuries earlier).
Culture ROU Heavy Messing Gangster An allusion to a term from Glaswegian, or from Ned-ese. Generally if one is said to be "heavy messing" they are considered by an aggrieved party to be interfering or aggravating a situation in which they have little to no stake in.
Culture ROU Killing Time Torturer A pun on a saying that 99% of war is just killing time, while the rest is the killing time.
Culture ROU Frank Exchange of Views Psychopath Nominally demilitarised, but in fact a fully armed warship. References the diplomatic language commonly used to describe a blazing argument.
Culture OU T3OU 4 Type Three Non-standard design, based on Inquisitor-class prototype. Child ships of the Sleeper Service. Controlled by semi-slaved AIs rather than independent Minds.
Culture OU T3OU 118 Type Three
Culture OU T3OU 736 Type Three
Culture Superlifter Charitable View Cliff Top sprint speed, 221,000 × light-speed (faster than contemporary ROUs).
Culture Cruise Ship Just Passing Through
Culture I Blame My Mother
Culture I Blame Your Mother
Culture Convertcraft Main Battle Unit Full Refund (formerly MBU 604) Empire Former Homomdan MBU, now Culture Convertcraft
Culture Eccentric GSV Quietly Confident,
later Sleeper Service
Plate Acts as a storage ship for biological persons in stasis. The name Sleeper Service is a pun on sleeping car (transport) and sleeper agent (espionage). It also secretly converts itself to be "mostly engine" so it can move unexpectedly quickly - a parallel to sleeper cars (racing). Standard Plate class top cruising speed is 104,000 × light-speed, increased by these modifications to 233,500. Originally controlled by three Minds, two of which were removed when the other became Eccentric. Parent ship of the Unacceptable Behaviour, Jaundiced Outlook, T3OU 4, T3OU 118 and T3OU 736.
Culture Sabbaticaler GSV No Fixed Abode Ex-Equator No fixed abode is a legal term for someone without a fixed address, such as a homeless person. Its name is an observation on itself as a moving starship inherently has no fixed abode.
Culture Ulterior Highpoint Possibly not a ship (described only as an "Ulterior Entity").
Culture Ulterior (AhForgetIt Tendency), Eccentric Shoot Them Later
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench) Explorer Ship Appeal To Reason Part of the Stargazer Clan.
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench) Explorer Ship Break Even
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench) Explorer Ship Long View
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench) Explorer Ship Peace Makes Plenty
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench) Explorer Ship Sober Counsel
Culture Ulterior (Zetetic Elench) Explorer Ship Within Reason
Affront Frightspear
Affront Light Cruiser Furious Purpose Meteorite
Affront Kiss The Blade
Affront Riptalon
Affront SacSlicer II
Affront Wingclipper
Affront Battleship Xenoclast

Look to Windward[]

Most of the Culture ship names in Look to Windward are only mentioned in a humorous conversation about ship names in Chapter 11, Absence of Gravitas, and do not represent characters in the novel.

Ships mentioned in Look to Windward include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall Equator Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[4] A GCU of the same name is mentioned in Matter.

SpaceX's fourth drone ship is named A Shortfall of Gravitas, in reference to this ship.

Culture GSV Lasting Damage A GSV built for combat on the eve of the Idiran-Culture War. After it was destroyed in battle, a recorded copy of its mind-state was embodied in a new Mind and incorporated into another GSV of the same class. Its original Mind was later found to have survived the ship's destruction, and was also incorporated into a new combat GSV.
Culture GSV Lasting Damage I The second ship incorporating the original Lasting Damage Mind, which had been assumed destroyed but eventually returned. This second ship was later itself destroyed, but its Mind again survived, and merged with the recorded mind-state of the Lasting Damage II, which was also destroyed, including its Mind, in the same battle. It became the Hub Mind of Masaq' Orbital.
Culture GSV Lasting Damage II The ship incorporating the backup copy Mind of the Lasting Damage.
Culture GSV Sanctioned Parts List
Culture GCU Grey Area (aka Meatfucker) Featured in Excession; mentioned here only as an illustration of the Culture's disapproval of machines reading the minds of biological individuals, an activity which led other Minds to disregard its chosen name in favour of the name Meatfucker.
Culture ROU Nuisance Value Torturer
Culture VFP/(D)ROU Resistance Is Character-Forming Gangster
Culture Superlifter Vulgarian
Culture Someone Else's Problem Possible reference to the "SEP field", a type of cloaking device featured in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Tertiary phase) which caused people to simply ignore what it was protecting, rather than actually making it invisible.
Culture Lacking That Small Match Temperament
Culture GCU Poke It With A Stick
Culture OU I Said, I've Got A Big Stick The small print (spoken softly) is an allusion to the saying "Speak softly and carry a big stick."
Culture Hand Me The Gun And Ask Me Again
Culture But Who's Counting? LOU Me, I'm Counting provides the answer.
Culture Germane Riposte
Culture We Haven't Met But You're A Great Fan Of Mine
Culture All The Same, I Saw It First
Culture Ravished By The Sheer Implausibility Of That Last Statement
Culture Zero Credibility
Culture Charming But Irrational
Culture Demented But Determined
Culture You May Not Be The Coolest Person Here
Culture Lucid Nonsense
Culture Awkward Customer
Culture Thorough But... Unreliable
Culture Advanced Case Of Chronic Patheticism
Culture Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory SpaceX named a drone landing pad at their Boca Chica restaurant in reference to this ship.[5]
Culture Conventional Wisdom
Culture In One Ear Part of the expression "in one ear and out the other".
Culture Fine Till You Came Along
Culture I Blame The Parents
Culture Inappropriate Response
Culture A Momentary Lapse Of Sanity
Culture Lapsed Pacifist
Culture Reformed Nice Guy
Culture Pride Comes Before A Fall
Culture Injury Time A play on the sporting term "injury time" (i.e. time added on at the end of a match to make up for stoppages required to deal with injuries to players) and a notional appropriate time to inflict an injury (see also Killing Time).
Culture Now Look What You've Made Me Do
Culture Kiss This Then
Chelgrian Privateer Winter Storm
Chelgrian Temple ship Piety
Chelgrian Temple ship Soulhaven

Names mentioned in a humorous conversation about various Culture ships in Chapter 11 of the novel.


Ships mentioned in Matter include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Seed Drill Ocean
Culture MSV Don't Try This At Home Steppe
Culture LSV Xenoglossicist Air
Culture GCV Subtle Shift In Emphasis Plains
Culture GCU Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall Part of the "... Gravitas ..." running gag.[4] A GSV of the same name is mentioned in Look to Windward.

SpaceX's fourth drone ship is named A Shortfall of Gravitas, in reference to this ship.

Culture GCU It's My Party And I'll Sing If I Want To Escarpment Allusion to the song It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to.
Culture GCU Lightly Seared On The Reality Grill
Culture GCU Pure Big Mad Boat Man An inside joke based upon the language of Ned (Scottish) culture. It would be read/heard as "a pure big, mad boat, man" roughly meaning "a very large and deadly serious boat my good man".
Culture GCU Qualifier Trench
Culture GCU Transient Atmospheric Phenomenon Transient Atmospheric Phenomenon has been suggested as an alternative name for a UFO
Culture GCU You Naughty Monsters
Culture FP/(D)GOU Eight Rounds Rapid Delinquent
Culture VFP/(D)ROU You'll Clean That Up Before You Leave Gangster
Culture Now We Try It My Way Erratic An ancient ship, originally an Interstellar-class ship of the now-obsolete General Transport Craft type.
Culture Ulterior Superlifter (ex GCU), militarised Liveware Problem Stream (modified Delta-class GCU) Militarised during the Idiran War and nominally absconded after the conflict, probably for the purpose of acting as a deniable Special Circumstances operative. The phrase is a joke among computer engineers, suggesting that the problem lies with the user.[6]

The Deep Submersible Support Vessel (DSSV) Pressure Drop, the expedition support ship of the Five Deeps Expedition led by Victor Vescovo, has a rescue boat on it called the "Liveware Problem." The inside joke according to the crew is that if the ship was ever sinking and the ship had to use the boat, it would probably be because of a "liveware problem."

Morthanveld Cat.3 SlimHull “Now, Turning to Reason, & its Just Sweetness” The book's appendix capitalises the first letter of 'its', contrary to the two times the ship is named in the text.
Morthanveld Cat.4 CleaveHull “On First Seeing Jhiriit” This ship is not mentioned in the story itself, only in the book's appendix.
Morthanveld Cat.5 SwellHull “Fasilyce, Upon Waking”
Morthanveld Great Ship Inspiral, Coalescence, Ringdown Comparable to a GSV; the name refers to stages in the merger of two black holes.
Nariscene Star Cruiser Hence the Fortress Comet
Nariscene Hundredth Idiot, The White Dwarf Name derived from a Nariscene proverb.

Surface Detail[]

Ships mentioned in Surface Detail include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV Dressed Up To Party
Culture GSV Pelagian Equator
Culture GSV Sense Amid Madness, Wit Amidst Folly Plate
Culture GSV Total Internal Reflection One of the "Forgotten"/"Oubliettionaries": Systems Vehicles remaining indefinitely in secretive isolation, tasked with recreating the Culture in the event of its destruction.
Culture GCU Armchair Traveller Mountain
Culture GCU Bodhisattva, OAQS Escarpment Part of Contact's Quietudinal Service (Quietus). Quietus ships added letters OAQS - On Active Quietudinal Service - to their names while they were so employed.
Culture GOU/PS Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints Abominator Class publicly categorised as Picket Ship, to give the impression that they are equivalent in function to FPs and VFPs; in fact these are state-of-the-art warships, the most powerful to appear in the series.
Culture FP/(D)GOU No One Knows What The Dead Think Formerly known as the GOU Obliterating Angel.
Culture FP/(D)LOU Hylozoist Killer Class possibly downgraded from ROU (designated as such in Consider Phlebas, set fifteen centuries earlier). Name alludes to Hylozoism.
Culture FP/(D)ROU The Usual But Etymologically Unsatisfactory Psychopath Class possibly downgraded from VFP (designated as such in Excession, set ten centuries earlier, and in The Hydrogen Sonata, set five centuries earlier).
Culture Beastly To The Animals
Culture Fixed Grin
Culture Hidden Income Type not mentioned in novel, but possibly General Transport Craft (see Matter).
Culture Scar Glamour
Culture Eccentric Labtebricolephile This name appears to be derived from a misspelling of 'latebricole' (the misspelling in question likely originating from Stephen Chrisomalis's website "The Phrontistery"), which is an adjective meaning "living concealed in a hole".
Culture Ulterior, Eccentric FP/(D)LOU Me, I'm Counting Hooligan Another ship in the Culture is called But Who's Counting?.
GFCF Contact Craft Messenger Of Truth Succour
GFCF Minor Destructor Vessel Fractious Person
GFCF Minor Destructor Vessel Rubric Of Ruin
GFCF Abundance Of Onslaught Deepest Regrets Deepest Regrets-class ships are capital ships and the pride of the GFCF fleet.
GFCF Vision Of Hope Surpassed Deepest Regrets
GFCF GOU Joiler Veppers (provisional name) Murderer (modified) Based on the Culture's obsolete Murderer-class GOU, with upgraded speed and modified weaponry, built by the GFCF as a bribe for the Sichultian plutocrat Joiler Veppers.
Jhlupian Heavy Cruiser Ucalegon Ucalegon means "a neighbor whose house is on fire". Ucalegon is also the name of a non-sentient Culture barge on Masaq' Orbital in Look to Windward.
Nauptre Reliquaria Bismuth Category 8401.00 Partial Photic Boundary

The Hydrogen Sonata[]

Ships mentioned in The Hydrogen Sonata include:

Civilisation Ship Type Name Class Comments
Culture GSV A Fine Disregard For Awkward Facts
Culture GSV Contents May Differ Atmosphere
Culture GSV Empiricist System A big ship, even by the standards of System-class vessels, which are the largest built by the Culture (being composed of multiple separate hulls, ships of this class are easily expanded, leading to great variations in size). Controlled by seven Minds. Population over 13 billion.
Culture GSV Just The Washing Instruction Chip In Life's Rich Tapestry
Culture GSV Kakistocrat Home GSV of Mistake Not… "Kakistocrat" is Ancient Greek, meaning "worst ruler", a humorous inversion of "aristocrat".
Culture GSV Teething Problems
Culture GSV Unreliable Witness Parent ship of the Smile Tolerantly.
Culture MSV Passing By And Thought I'd Drop In Desert
Culture MSV Pressure Drop Shelf Victor Vescovo, an American deep-sea explorer, named the expedition/mother ship of the deep diving submersible DSV Limiting Factor after this ship. The current DSSV (Deep Submersible Support Vessel) Pressure Drop was formerly the USNS Indomitable.[3]
Culture LSV You Call This Clean? Blue
Culture GCU Displacement Activity River Class name previously used for a Superlifter class in The Player of Games.
Culture GCU Warm, Considering Delta
Culture LCU Anything Legal Considered Ridge Class possibly downgraded from GCU (designated as such in Excession, set five centuries earlier).
Culture LCU Beats Working Scree The smallest class of Contact Unit: 80m long, with a human crew of five.
Culture GOU Headcrash Delinquent
Culture GOU Questionable Ethics
Culture GOU Xenocrat Delinquent
Culture LOU Caconym Troublemaker Although categorised as LOUs, the Troublemaker class are referred to as "nominatively camouflaged", outclassing earlier GOUs. "Caconym" is Ancient Greek, meaning "bad name", probably in reference to the English idiom meaning "bad reputation".
Culture LOU New Toy
Culture VFP/(D)LOU Rapid Random Response Unit Troublemaker
Culture ROU Learned Response The Deep Submersible Support Vessel (DSSV) Pressure Drop, the expedition support ship of the Five Deeps Expedition led by Victor Vescovo, has a small, dual-outboard sea-control/support vessel called the "Learned Response."
Culture VFP/(D)ROU Outstanding Contribution To The Historical Process Psychopath Twice referred to as “Ex-Psychopath-class”
Culture FP/(D)ROU Refreshingly Unconcerned With The Vulgar Exigencies Of Veracity Thug Some confusion as to type: described as a demilitarised ROU, but also as an FP, a designation otherwise applied to demilitarised GOUs and LOUs, whereas demilitarised ROUs are VFPs. Also referred to as an ROU class in Excession, but in that book the Thug-class-based Type Five OUs are lower in the fleet hierarchy than the Type Four, based on the Killer class, which is described in the same book as an LOU, implying that the Thug class should also be LOUs.
Culture FP/(D)ROU Value Judgement Thug See above.
Culture Superlifter Zoologist Boulder
Culture Eccentric OU/e Mistake Not… A one-off design of indeterminate classification, whose capabilities remain secret but which is a highly capable warship. It identifies itself as Ue, for Unit (eccentric/erratic); less coyly designated in the book's appendix as OU/e. Its full name, which is a private joke amongst other Culture Minds and almost never used, is the Mistake Not My Current State Of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Mere Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath.
Culture-Zihdren-Remnanter hybrid (ex-)GCU Smile Tolerantly Formerly an ancient GCU, has hybridised its Mind with the technology of another civilisation, the Zihdren-Remnanter, and describes itself as having "enhanced loyalties" (i.e. divided loyalties). Child ship of the Unreliable Witness.
Gzilt IR-HAS cruiser 5*Gelish-Oplule Indefinite Range, High Acceleration/Speed
Gzilt IR-HVW battlecruiser 7*Uagren Indefinite Range, High Velocity/Weapon-load
Gzilt IR-FWS battleship 8*Churkun Indefinite Range, Full Weapon Spectrum
Iwenick Space-Capable Inter-Element Transportation Component Iberre Private yacht, named after the owner's father-mother.
Iwenick Strategic Outreach Element CH2OH.(CHOH)4.CHO The chemical whose formulation is given in this name is galactose (here used as a pun on galaxy/galactic).
Liseiden Collective Purposes Vessel Abalule-Sheliz
Liseiden Collective Purposes Vessel Gellemtyan-Asool-Anafawaya (First Class) Flagship
Liseiden Collective Purposes Vessel Laskuil-Hliz
Liseiden Collective Purposes Vessel Quiatrea-Anang
Liseiden Fulanya-Guang
Ronte Melancholia Enshrines All Triumph Interstitial/Exploratory
Zihdren-Remnanter Adjunct Entity Oceanic Dissonance
Zihdren-Remnanter Ceremonial Representative Carrying Ship Exaltation-Parsimony III

Further ships[]

The following ships have not appeared in any books, however they were named by Iain M Banks in an interview with The Guardian.[4] These ships obtained their names as a result of another (unnamed) Involved civilisation criticizing Culture ship naming policy, claiming that such powerful ships ought to have names with a little more gravitas.

  • Stood Far Back When The Gravitas Was Handed Out
  • Gravitas, What Gravitas?
  • Gravitas... Gravitas... No, Don't Help Me, I'll Get It In A Moment...
  • Gravitas Free Zone
  • Low Gravitas Warning Signal
  • Absolutely No You-Know-What


The autonomous spaceport drone ships Of Course I Still Love You, Just Read the Instructions 1 & 2, operated by SpaceX, were named after General Contact Units mentioned in The Player of Games, as a posthumous homage to Banks by Elon Musk.[7] The construction of a fourth drone ship, named A Shortfall of Gravitas, was announced by Elon Musk via Twitter on February 12, 2018.[8] It is named after the Experiencing A Significant Gravitas Shortfall, a ship mentioned in Look to Windward and Matter as a GSV and GCU respectively.